In the spring of 2007, only a few months after I had established Book Hunter’s Holiday, my mentor encouraged me to try to attend the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. He’d taken it himself several years earlier and highly recommended it because of the diverse amount of topics covered by the faculty: buying books, selling books (both brick and mortar and online), pricing books, auctions, how to judge condition, the traditional terminology for bibliographic description, technology for bookselling, marketing one’s business, taxes and accounting, appraisals, and book conservation.
“Sounds interesting,” I remember telling him. “I’d like to go, but I don’t see how I can possibly be away from home for five days. What will I do with my kids while I’m gone? And I’ve only just started my business. I’m not exactly pulling in the big bucks. How am I going to pay for it?”
“There are scholarships, you know,” he told me.
I went home and checked the Seminar’s website. Sure enough, there were several scholarships and partial scholarships available. After looking over the list of faculty, which includes booksellers of all types and even a Librarian of Congress, I decided to apply for the Seminar and a scholarship. Though it would take a lot of logistical coordinating, with a little help from my husband and our parents, we could get coverage for the kids during the week I would be away. “That’s it,” I decided. “If I’m going to be taken seriously as a bookseller, I have to do everything I can to learn the trade, and the best people to learn from are those who are already in the trade. I’m going to that seminar, no matter what it takes.”
And the rest is history. I did get a partial scholarship and I worked hard to sell enough books to cover the rest of the costs. There’s nothing like the reward of a week in book heaven to motivate a person to sell more books!
The week spent at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar was nothing short of fantastic. Though there are other rare book schools at UCLA and University of Virginia that teach about rare books and their history, the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar is the only one of which I know to teach people about the various types of bookselling available (open shop, online, specialist dealer, generalist dealer, catalogue-only, etc.), about what is needed to be considered professional, and about how to get established in the trade.
I came away from my week in Colorado energized, inspired, and ready to make plans for my business. I also came away having met and gotten to know about 60 other booksellers with whom I still keep in touch. I’ve shared booths at book fairs with a few of them, bought books with a few of them, and sold books to a few of them. It’s nice not to be the only new person trying to establish a book business, and this network of colleagues has been a helpful and reassuring presence more times than I can count in the past two years. Moreover, the excellent faculty is always available to answer questions during the seminar and are very generous with their time. They even have an email list that is open to all alumni of the Seminar, a place where one can go to ask (or answer) questions. I remember being impressed by the faculty’s ability to satisfactorily address both those students (like me) who were brand new to the trade and those who already had some experience.
With the shrinking of the US economy, you may find your book business shrinking as well. You might be thinking, as I was in 2007, that now is not the time to spend money on something that does not involve selling actual books. You might be thinking that the last thing you need to do is take five days away from your business. If your life situation is like mine, you’re might also be thinking that it is near impossible to arrange for kids and family members to be taken care of so you can travel to an antiquarian book seminar.
I’m here to tell you that such thinking is just plain wrong. Investing in your knowledge of the trade is necessary to your future success in the trade. When I’ve been confronted with seemingly unanswerable bookselling questions, that seminar has saved me from re-inventing the printing press — on many occasions.
Now is the perfect time for booksellers, whether aspiring or new in the trade or just wanting to learn more than what you already know, to sign up for the 2009 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. Among the many already available, there are three additional scholarships being offered this year, so there’s no excuse not to try for one of those as well.
Whether you’re already a bookseller or you’re just wondering how to start selling books, click here to see the list of faculty, topics to be covered, housing and travel information, scholarships available, and applications. You can also read comments from alumni on their experiences at the Seminar. This year’s seminar will be held from Sunday, August 2 – Friday, August 7, 2009. The deadline to apply is July 1, but there is a $100 discount to those who apply by May 1.
If you want to be taken seriously in business of selling antiquarian books, the Seminar is a very worthwhile investment.
Go on. Apply. You never know how far you can go until you try.
See you at the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar!